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'Real healing requires conversation': Initiative pushes for better mental healthcare access within the Black community

Community leaders are hoping an event over the weekend, called a 'healing block party,' is the start of something even bigger in Louisville.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville community leaders are working to provide easier access to mental health resources, specifically within the Black community.

Stemming from a 'Healing Block Party' over the weekend, members of the initiative called A Path Forward For Louisville want to build off momentum for an event they say brought in nearly 300 people looking for support.

"Black people rarely get spaces where they can just breathe, and this was one of those days," said Elishia Durrett Johnson, who heads the Mental Health Advisory Board for the group. "We just really thought about all the barriers [and] gaps to self care."

At the Norton Healthcare Sports & Learning Center Saturday, trained therapists like Durrett Johnson and others were on hand to listen and share information on the best ways to seek out help.

"There are layers to trauma and healing," she said.

Police reform, better job opportunities and more affordable housing have been some of the focuses for A Path Forward for Louisville -- founded following the heat of the 2020 protests. It's brought calls to end racial disparities on all levels, and now creating equitable access to mental healthcare is part of the latest mission.

Sadiqa Reynolds, CEO of the Louisville Urban League, tells WHAS11 that eliminating the stigma around seeking out therapy is one of the many roadblocks they're working to overcome. She said making sure people have places to cope is essential, as much now as ever before.

"Even the good news that we got that there would be accountability in the case of Breonna Taylor, it also comes with some trauma because it pulls that Band-Aid off all over again," she said. "Real healing requires a conversation, but it also requires work."

Meanwhile, Durrett Johnson, who runs her own mental health service called Begin to Talk LLC, said the next step will be a 'Community Selfcare Days' program to bring these resources even closer to people's homes. She hopes to start it before year's end.

Reynolds said the ultimate goal is to have quarterly events like the 'Healing Block Party' at the Norton Healthcare Sports & Learning Center moving forward.

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